Markets and Fairs.
Ripon has grown up around its Market Place which has provided a focus for the life of the town and city.
It is not unlikely that a market had developed at Ripon by the 10th century when Yorkshire was renowned for the number of its markets and fairs. There has thus probably been a market in Ripon for over a thousand years! This was long before any known market charter. Why did Thursday develop as Ripon's market day?
Ripon was the first of St Wilfrid's monasteries and his principal shrine where Thursdays, celebrated as the day he died, were kept 'as a feast as though it were a Sunday'. Thursdays would draw extra pilgrims for whom traders would set out their stalls. The inspiration for Thursday as Ripon's market day can reasonably be claimed to go back to the eighth century.
A market charter was a valuable grant to the church; the tolls would help to pay for clergy and build a new church. A charter, said have been given in 1108 by Henry I to 'Archbishop Thomas and St Wilfrid', refers to a weekly market and a fair in April: two days before the feast of St Wilfrid, on the day of the feast and on the day after. A charter of King Stephen is claimed to have permitted a weekly Wednesday market. It is likely that the Market Square was laid out sometime in the 12th Century.
Where would Ripon market have been held before 'Le Marketstede'? The church authorities were still trying to stop trading inside the minster two hundred years later, saying that the nave was being used as a common market where 'deceptions, frauds and perjuries' were committed, but still it continued. There were many disputes between the archbishop, his neighbours and the minster canons over their respective rights. By the end of the thirteenth century, as well as the weekly market, a charter had been granted for fairs in May and October. In addition there were the corn market, wool market and 'fairs' for the sale of cattle, sheep and horses at different times of the year.
In the 18th Century, Daniel Defoe described Ripon Market Square as 'The finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England'. By the end of the thirteenth century, as well as the weekly market, a charter had been granted for fairs in May and October. In addition there were the corn market, wool market and 'fairs' for the sale of cattle, sheep and horses at different times of the year.